I do like to watch a good black and white movie every now and then. I find the depiction of the world in the two decades or so before I was born very interesting and have, for as long as I can recall, appreciated the clothes and vehicles etc., particularly from the 1950s. It seems to be a rather glamorous era to me, though of course that’s based almost entirely on films etc. from the period in question.
Today’s movie was the 1953 crime noir from director Harry Horner (“Red Planet Mars”, “The Wild Party”) entitled “Vicki”.
This was the second film adaptation of a novel by Steve Fisher called “I Wake Up Screaming”. The first, also titled “I Wake Up Screaming” (although originally titled “Hot Spot”) had been released in 1941 with Betty Grable, Victor Mature and Carole Landis starring.
The movie opens with shots of billboard advertisements and magazine covers featuring the face of Vicki Lynn (Jean Peters – “Niagara”, “Pickup On South Street”). Then we see the police removing a body from an apartment building with a tag attached bearing the name Vicki Lynn.
Police Lt. Ed Cornell (Richard Boone – “Dragnet”, “The Robe”) is on vacation when he sees newspaper reports about Vicki’s body being found. Despite being away from work through being burnt out he immediately calls his superior and demands to be assigned the case personally.
Steve Christopher (Elliott Reid – “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes”, Inherit The Wind”), a publicity agent who is being questioned by police over Vicki’s murder.
Through flashbacks Steve describes to police detectives how he and gossip columnist Larry Evans (Max Showalter – “Bus Stop”, “How To Murder Your Wife”) spotted Vicki working as a waitress in a cafe after they had attended a stage show one night. They talked to Vicki and Steve persuaded her to look him up the next day with a promise to make her a star.
Vicki’s sister Jill (Jeanne Crain – “Pinky”, “Leave Her To Heaven”) is also being questioned at the police station, and gives her own account of Vicki’s rise to fame as a model and occasional singer, again depicted through flashbacks.
The third man responsible for Vicki’s rise to fame is actor Robin Ray (Alexander D’Arcy – “How To Marry A Millionaire”, “Blood Of Dracula’s Castle”).
All three are under suspicion of Vicki’s murder as she had just told them that she was leaving for Hollywood, leaving each of them feeling resentment of one kind or another.
Another suspect is the somewhat creepy clerk in the building that Vicki and Jill shared an apartment in, Harry Williams (Aaron Spelling – best known as a TV producer for programmes such as “Charlie’s Angels” and “Dynasty”).
Add in Jill, who may have had her own reasons for wanting Vicki out of the way, and there is plenty for Cornell and his colleagues to investigate…
I haven’t seen the 1941 adaptation, so I am in no position to make any comparisons. However, I can say that I thoroughly enjoyed this version. The acting is solid and the story told in an effective and gripping manner.
Peters is excellent as the waitress-turned-model who becomes something of a diva once she was achieved success, turning her back on those who got her there in the first place, and Boone very effectively portrays his detective character as a man right on the edge.